Now that Thanksgiving is over, we’re officially in the thick of the holiday season: Hanukkah is around the corner, Christmas is almost here, and even if you don’t celebrate either of those holidays, it’s hard to escape December without getting the holiday shopping itch. We don’t have anything against buying really good gifts for the people you love, but we do think there are better ways to spread cheer than to buy a bunch of gift sets, holiday specials, and seasonal treats that will end up in the trash or in your storage unit until this time next year. What’s more, if you can resist the impulse to buy a bunch of crap you don’t need, you might just have some money left over to do something fun with your friends and family that will leave you a lot happier and with a far more valuable experience than ceramic Santas and pie-scented candles.
Here’s our holiday cheer bucket list, no purchasing of crap necessary:
1. See a Ballet – No holiday season goes by without a million showings of The Nutcracker. Pony up for tickets and you’ll be humming to the tune of the sugar plum fairies well through the holiday season, without accumulating more junk to put in storage.
2. Clean and Donate – Be honest: Could someone else get more use out of that sweater in the bottom of your dresser than you do? If the answer is “yes,” then clean it, fold it, and donate it to a holiday clothing drive and feel good about your no-purchase-required charitable contribution.
3. Bake or Bartend – Holiday cookies and eggnog cocktails are some of the most festive and appreciated gifts you can give to your friends, and they make for a great holiday party that you’ll remember a lot longer than shitty stocking stuffers from the dollar store.
4. Go Ice Skating – You don’t have to live near Central Park to make this a holiday tradition; even if you have to head to an indoor rink, this winter-y activity will leave you far more cheerful than a day of crowd-surfing through department stores.
5. Drink Hot Chocolate in a Ski Lodge – Gather a group of friends and take a bus, train, or automobile to the nearest ski lodge for a hot chocolate and a snow fight (no skiing required).
6. Go On a Self-Guided Holiday Tour – Christmas lights, luminarias, menorahs, and ornaments give the season a special warmth, but they also fill our closets with cords and decor that give us anxiety during the rest of the year. Designate a day to walk (NOT shop) through your city’s shopping district just to enjoy the window displays and street decorations.
7. Make a Wreath – You could easily buy a tree or wreath to make your home smell and look a little more cheerful, but gathering some fallen branches and making your own is a lot more fun (and cheaper). We like Martha Stewart’s simple instructions for making a wreath, but you can do it any way you prefer.
8. Burn a Holiday Playlist – Making a holiday playlist and burning it onto CDs for friends is a great, cheap gift that you can probably do without buying anything at all. (You don’t need to buy a bunch of Nat King Cole and Mariah Carey tracks on iTunes, either. In fact, your friends will probably appreciate a soundtrack that doesn’t include the typical holiday carols – just pick stuff that you think is fun to listen to this time of year.)
9. Paint Some Eggs – You don’t have to buy ornaments (or a bunch of craft supplies) to enjoy some fun decor; just find some watercolors and paint some emptied egg shells (after you’ve whipped up some omelets with their innards) to hang on your tree, walls, wreath, windows, or wherever you feel you need some holiday cheer.
10. See a Movie – December is also the season for a lot of the year’s best movie releases, and once you’re settled into your seats and past the previews, going to the theater is sure to leave you way less stressed and with way less junk than if you spent the evening at the mall.